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HOW leaders can foster independence

 August 5, 2021   By Living As A Leader


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How Leaders Can Foster IndependenceHaving a sense of autonomy is one of the key motivators at work.

In the book Drive, Daniel Pink presents research that shows that motivation follows the ability to make independent decisions for the good of the organization.

For leaders, cultivating autonomy is not as simple as letting your team figure everything out for themselves. Instead, it’s creating the right framework where team members can feel supported, trusted and empowered.

Here are the ways to foster productive independence.

Get issues out in the open

The first step in creating autonomy is making sure everyone is on the same page about what issues you face in the organization. We recommend starting with company-wide engagement surveys and 360-degree feedback from multiple people in the organization. These tools provide comprehensive avenues to voice concerns, as well as identify potential hidden strengths of an organization. The first step is simply awareness, and reaching that level in a productive manner will help set up the next action plan.

Address problems right away

Once issues are uncovered, the most common response to a difficult situation is avoidance. Unfortunately, letting issues and problems linger without a solution can cause employees to feel like their work or decisions just don’t matter all that much. We do a disservice by not addressing key issues as they arise –– and the resulting bottlenecks or uncertainty can disempower your team. Reflect on an issue that you’ve been avoiding. What excuses have you been making to not address it? Next, decide how you can fix the problem to give your team back control over the situation.   

Develop protocols for next steps

Again, it’s not as simple as dropping a problem in your team’s lap and saying, “Now figure it out!” Instead, developing protocols and frameworks can create structure to allow others to make ongoing decisions. For example, creating committees to address ongoing issues like workplace expectations, training employees, updating technology and providing personal enrichment can give power to these teams. 

It’s important to know that fostering independence isn’t a one-time step. As the framework above shows, it’s a process that includes ongoing discovery, problem-solving and ultimately continual steps to empowerment. 



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